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Restaurant Review: Creole at Gallo’s Kitchen

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Creole at Gallo’s KitchenPhoto by Walker Evans.
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For a Cajun or Creole food fix, Columbus is home to plenty of fast-casual-ish options. There’s Yat’s, Da Levee, J Gumbo’s… but occasional cravings call for something a little fancier. Creole Kitchen might hit the spot, but its yet-to-open-sit-down-dining-digs might be worth holding out for.

There’s another option: Gallo’s Kitchen. It’s officially in Upper Arlington, but not in the labyrinth of residential areas with five-way intersections. Gallo’s Kitchen is accessibly located just off of Riverside Drive in a humble strip mall.

Outside, the parking lots is packed. Inside, the dining area lines one side, and the bar lines another. When all the guests clot around the bar side, it’s elbow-to-elbow over there. If the place was a boat, it would tip right over and everyone would drown, because there’s plenty of seating left over in the dining area with tables and chairs.

The menu theme is a merger of Italian and Creole food options. We’re skipping all of the Italian. It’s probably good, but nobody’s got time for that when there’s jambalaya, étouffée, gumbo and muffulettas to be consumed.

So, Chicken Étouffée ($15) first. Essentially, it’s chicken in red/brown sauce over rice. That said, it deserves a more loving description than the prior sentence. At Gallo’s Kitchen, the dish has a fancy gravy; salty, but with the depth of a southern roux. The chicken is just lightly encased in a coating and its barely-there sweater sucks up the gravy, so each bite delivers a complete Creole package. As might be expected, it’s served with plump rice.

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Then there’s Jambalaya ($17). By its nature, it’s a rice dish, reddish and very tomatoey. Boasting a generous supply of diced tomatoes and more chicken, the jambalaya has a little bit of sausage and teeny cubes of tasso ham. It also has an extraordinarily late-hitting heat. It takes several gobbling bites before noticing a faint but distinct burning sensation.

People who prefer to eat with their hands (or who don’t like soupy casserole foods) can take solace in the Muffaletta ($10): a mountain of a sandwich with tight layers of capicola, salami, mortadella and mild provolone with a luxe layer of olive salad (tapenade) to tie all the brininess and starch together. You can score it with fries or tater tots. The menu features Po’ Boys too, and while having the option is authentic for the genre, it’s not as fun to pronounce.

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Finally, the very most favorite fix was the Gumbo ($8.50). It’s comparatively modestly priced and a bowl will fill you up. It starts with the obligatory rice, and mixes with an outstandingly smoky stew that features teeny dices of ham and long, flavorful shreds of chicken that suck up the seasoned elements of the southern stew.

The prices at Gallo’s are higher than the fast-casual Cajun joints, but the qualitative experience is different too. The eats come with a sophisticated flavor profile and meticulously balanced seasoning. You can give it a whirl at 2820 Nottingham Road. The doors open at 4pm, and the kitchen opens at 5pm every day except for Sunday (when it’s closed).

For more information, visit www.gallosfoodgroup.com.

All photos by Walker Evans.

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